Is being inauthentic killing your presentation?

There’s truth to the doctrine: Fake it ’til you make it. Except for when you depend on clout to carry a presentation instead of passion. But how do you know if being inauthentic is causing your presentation to fail?

If you don’t believe in what you’re there to say, then it’s going to become apparent to your audience very quickly and soon you’ll be greeted by the soft glow of smartphones from the seats in front of you. Say hello to a torturous situation.

I was recently at a conference where a very successful, accomplished professional speaker presented. It was nothing less than a horror show.

Not only did the slides shown look like they were the love child of cat vomit and a tie-dyed shirt, but his well-rehearsed script was just as difficult to decode. Arbitrary funny videos, near-constant mentions of his buddy–Steve Jobs, and his recent African safaris dominated his conversation—it made his whole presentation oozed insecurity.

Did I mention he knew Steve Jobs? Because he knew Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs!

It’s not as if this man didn’t prepare; he very clearly knew his slides inside and out (for which I have to give him credit because that was no easy feat), but his insatiable need for self-validation is what swiftly discredited him with the audience.

Presenters’ fatal flaw

This presenter's fatal flaw was to make the presentation all about himself. How impressive he was, how many big names he could drop in and where in the world he had visited; all topped off with a smattering of marketing tips for the audience.

We all spoke about this memorable presentation during dinner that evening. Unfortunately, we were talking about the blazing flaws instead of the speaker’s brilliant marketing advice. We weren’t the only ones talking about it, we heard the audience ripping the presentation apart, and they were brutal.

It’s imperative to remember that your speech is about your audience, not yourself. As tempting as it is, no one wants to hear about how you knew Steve Jobs unless it is pertinent to the topic. If it is then, you had better make sure you make that point connection clear.

Give your audience what they’re there for: your knowledge.

It sounds simple because it is simple. Simple works.

Many presenters feel as though a simple presentation is somehow wrong; it denotes laziness or lack of being prepared. In reality, simplicity is incredibly difficult to achieve because knowing what to remove for effectiveness is so much harder than you’d think it is.

Start with everything you want to say and then remove at least 30%. There’s a big difference between what you need to say and what you think you need to say.

Whoever you’re presenting to, I promise you; they’re just people. Don’t prejudge yourself as a bad or inexperienced speaker because it breeds insecurity; which is self-sabotage and it will undermine everything you have to say.

If you find that you’re veering, regroup and redirect. It’s not a catastrophe yet. You can always save it by being authentic. If you’re true to yourself and your topic, you’re never going to fail.

Cindy Caughey

In Good Company Design, Barnstable, MA